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Space Crew Review – Preparing for 2024’s Badlands Crew

A new game is on the way from developers Runner Duck and publisher Curve Digital. Starting with 2017’s Bomber Crew, it followed in 2020 with a sci-fi version called Space Crew. It was recently announced that a third game in the series is on the way and titled Badlands Crew and looks to be a Mad Max take on the management simulator genre. Badlands Crew is slated for a 2024 release, but it is exciting nonetheless, and so I thought I would dive back into Space Crew for some hectic colony sim fun.

Space Crew has you commanding a ship and crew of six souls in space, boldly taking you where no one has gone before. It feels like a mix of Star Trek and The Orville as you lead your team on away missions to defeat the threat to humankind through a range of single player missions from reconnaissance to bounty hunts, reclamation and more. It’s awesome fun, hilarious at times and super punishing at other times, but overall is an easy-going game to play.

As a crew in the United Defense Force, you are enlisted to carry out various types of missions to defend Earth. Precarious asteroid fields, harmful radiation, the freezing vacuum of space and black holes all pose a danger to even the most experienced space crew. If you’ve played Bomber Crew, you’ll know the essential gameplay elements of ship and crew management. The game’s tutorial does a very good job of teaching you these basics and how to handle yourself out in the black of space, all alone and having to fend for yourself. Your crew consists of a captain, comms officer, engineer, security officer and two weapons officers.

Your responsibility is to protect your valiant crew from alien boardings, getting sucked out into space, running out of oxygen, system failures, ship fires and whatever else gets thrown at you mission after mission. It’s as intense as it sounds at times, and it’s these moments of seeing your crew triumph over adversity that keeps driving your progress. There were many deaths in my playthrough, and often entire crew wipes/explosions. Back at base, it’s as quick as clicking “recruit all crew members” and boom, you’re back ready for action with a fresh crew.

The mission variation is great, and there’s always the threat of a bounty target launching in with their cronies to attempt to board your ship. When that happened, all hell broke loose, and I usually got overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed was a common thing for me, and this isn’t a negative attribute against the game at all. Once you have identified the enemy ships in your current system and targeted them all from an outside the ship perspective, your gunners will automatically shoot at them whenever they’re in range. That’s the easy part.

The real strategy of the game comes with the crew management in your ship. There are four turrets around the ship, and early on the ship has basic level 1 equipment, weapons and armour. Your engineer adjusts the efficiency of the ships systems, weapons, shields, engines and gravity. He also is the best at repairing other ship components like the engines and reactor core. You can command the captain to fly aggressively or defensively, but you need to keep a close eye on the shield capacity and hull/reactor damage.

Most often, gravity was the first system to be sacrificed in order to boost shields or weapon systems. The comms officer has the ability to boost the shields back to 100% all around, but it’s on a significant timer. The security officer can purge parts of the ship if you’ve been boarded. Each weapons officer has a focus fire ability on a shorter cool down. It becomes very strategic as you balance systems. When things start to break down, you need to sacrifice one of the weapons stations to have a crewmember run, or float, around fixing the immediate problem. Usually this was a fire that started, or a gunner may have been injured.

Within the ship is a limited supply of space suits, heal packs, weapons and fire extinguishers. Fire in the vacuum of space is bad, so it’s best to put out fires as quick as possible. However, if you’re like me and turn gravity off in favour of boosting shields, floating from one end of the ship to the fire is agonisingly slow. When I finally got to the fire and shot off the fire extinguisher, naturally the force of the fire extinguisher threw my engineer backwards. This started me off cackling as I watched my engineer struggling against gravity to put out the flames.

While this was happening, and in between fits of laughter, everything else had gone pear-shaped. The port engine had been disabled, my forward gunner had been knocked out, the ships hull had been breached so oxygen was dropping at a rapid rate. I dropped the fire extinguisher as I floated to get a heal kit, managing to revive the captain who had suffocated. The fire started again, other crew members slowly died and then the ship blew up in my face. Epic fail! Back at the home base and in the mess hall, you can see a news bulletin scrolling across the screen that the whole crew had been wiped out on a mission.

As you complete missions, providing you don’t explode like a number of my attempts, you earn research points that unlock equipment for the crew and the ship as well as earning coins. Your crew members will gain experience and learn new skills at level intervals, but ultimately if they die, they’re gone. Thankfully though any gear items you’ve unlocked can be used in future crews. I recruited a new crew, outfitted them and my ship in items I had acquired in previous missions, painted my ship and renamed it “The Chum Bucket MK II” and set off on my next adventure.

There are times where I had to do multiple missions to save enough credits to purchase much-needed upgrades on the ship which made a good difference in my ability to take on harder missions. There is repetition evident in the structure of missions, but they’re always challening in different ways so the gameplay and management of each situation is enough that it doesn’t feel too grindy. The missions are over quick enough that if it does feel the same, just shut it down and play the next day.

Space Crew is fantastic and great fun, and is available on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. Whilst some of the missions were challenging, it drove you to do better each time, and with missions that only last about 15-20 minutes, it’s good fun even if you have limited time to play. I am very much looking forward to Badlands Crew next year and a few revisits to Bomber Crew and Space Crew will definitely be on the cards while I wait.


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